- - Monday, March 1, 2021

So much for Louis DeJoy throwing the election to Donald Trump.

Mr. DeJoy, President Trump’s hand-picked postmaster general, went out and delivered so much election mail so efficiently that mail-in ballots were largely considered to have made the difference in Democrat Joe Biden’s victory last November.

The U.S. Postal Service delivered 135 million ballots — 99.89% of them within seven days, as Mr. DeJoy had promised state election officials last summer. The postal service brought ballots from voters to election officials within three days 97.9% of the time. The average ballot took 2.1 days to reach voters, then just 1.6 days to return to election officials. 

As a result, Mr. Trump got 15 million more votes than he did in 2016 but lost as voter turnout reached levels not seen in more than a century.

Thus, the notion that Mr. DeJoy removed mailboxes and sorting equipment in postal facilities to steal the election “will go down in history with other baseless conspiracy theories, like the ones Adam Schiff spun in the Intelligence Committee,” said Rep. James Comer, Kentucky Republican, in a House Oversight Committee hearing convened to begin work on new postal reform legislation.



Mr. DeJoy suffered much for having been selected during an election year. He is finalizing a postal reform plan — one his predecessor never delivered despite years of promises — but began almost immediately to change the leadership of the postal service and reform its practices.  

He removed mail-sorting equipment used for first-class mail from the floor of many postal facilities because demand for first-class mail has declined to the point those machines were taking up space that could be more efficiently used for other tasks.

He attempted to corral overtime — itself a $1.1 billion line item in 2018 — by insisting that all mail for a given route be on the truck when it left the first time, rather than the practice in place at the time of returning two or three times to deliver mail that missed the initial trip. The postal service’s labor costs are a third higher than any of its competitors in the delivery business and a leading cause of its nearly 20 years of red ink. 

About six weeks into these reforms, Democrats in Congress accused Mr. DeJoy of slowing the mail on purpose to throw the election, and he agreed to suspend the reforms until after the election. Predictably, when Mr. DeJoy’s reforms were canceled, delivery times got worse. By December, only 64% of first-class mail was delivered on time — nearly 18% worse than when Mr. DeJoy’s reforms were in place. 

Now, the Democrats want to enact window dressing reforms. The three people President Biden appointed to the Postal Board of Governors this week — a former lawyer for the American Postal Workers Union, a former deputy postmaster general who was forced out when Mr. DeJoy took over and the CEO of the National Vote at Home Institute, a Democrat-favored group — seem geared to working on a union-friendly approach that would not recognize the efficiencies Mr. DeJoy and others have proposed. 

The postal service has lost money for at least 14 straight years. It is more than $100 billion behind on pension and retiree health benefits payments. Its problems have been clear for some time.  

First-class mail volume has declined every year since 2008 — coincidentally the last year Congress passed postal reform legislation. Package delivery has increased dramatically. The postal service is supposed to separate in its books the businesses in which it operates as a monopoly — delivery of first-class mail and being the only entity allowed to put mail into a customer’s mailbox — and those, such as package delivery, in which it competes with private-sector firms. 

Its failure to properly attribute those costs has led to horrific decisions, such as the agreement to deliver Amazon packages for $2 per package when the cost to the postal service was nearly $3.50.  

Not surprisingly, Amazon wants to keep the postal service broke and needy. It joined with a coalition of online retailers to fund a seven-figure advertising blitz opposing then-President Trump’s suggestion that the postal service raise rates on package delivery to better recover its costs and stem the tide of red ink.  

The coalition prevailed. Rates weren’t raised. The postal service continues to lose money. 

It’s time for Congress to take a look at what Mr. DeJoy truly seeks to accomplish. Those first-class mail machines don’t belong on the floor if volume has been cut almost in half since 2007. Overtime remains the albatross on the budget sheet, and if the postal service wants to compete in the package business, it must apportion its costs appropriately and resist the urge to set policy according to the wishes of its unions and competitors. 

Unfortunately, with the direction the Biden administration seems to want to take, none of that is likely to happen.

• Brian McNicoll, a freelance writer based in Alexandria, Va., is a former senior writer for The Heritage Foundation and former director of communications for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

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